Ethnic Group Labels and Intergroup Attitudes in New Zealand: Naming Preferences Predict Distinct Ingroup and Outgroup Biases


  • Collection of the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study 2009 (NZAVS-09) data analyzed in this article was funded by University of Auckland FRDF (3624435/9853) and ECREA (3626075) grants awarded to Chris Sibley.

Chris Sibley, Department of Psychology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand [e-mail:].


New Zealand society is unique in that New Zealanders of European descent (the majority group) are regularly labeled in institutional and popular discourse using an ethnic group label created by Māori (the indigenous minority group). This label is “Pākehā.” Endorsement of this label is by no means consensual, and opposition to its use is often claimed on the grounds that the term is pejorative. We tested the validity of this concern in a national sample (N = 6,507) by assessing differences in the ingroup and outgroup evaluations of Māori and New Zealanders of European descent based on their label preferences. We found no support for the claim that the term “Pākehā” is associated with a negative evaluation of the majority group. Rather, Māori expressed positive attitudes toward New Zealanders of European descent regardless of the label they preferred to describe them. For Māori, use of the term “Pākehā” was instead indicative of ingroup cultural engagement, including the use of Māori language, and had little to do with outgroup attitudes. New Zealanders of European descent who preferred the term “Pākehā,” in contrast, expressed more positive attitudes toward Māori than those who preferred the terms “New Zealand European,”“New Zealander,” or “Kiwi.”